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Staffing, Finance & General Puposes Committee Meeting held Thursday 11 February 2016 at 6.30pm

Minutes of the Staffing, Finance & General Purposes Committee held in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Bideford on Thursday 11 February  2016 at 6.30 pm

PRESENT:   
North Ward:   
Councillor D Bushby
Councillor P S Christie
Councillor D McGeough (Substitute for Councillor A T Inch)
Councillor P J Pester (Town Mayor)

South Ward:   
Councillor D G Brenton
Councillor S G Inch (Chairman)
Councillor R Wootton
       
South (Outer) Ward:
Councillor D Howell

East Ward:       
Councillor M Langmead

IN ATTENDANCE:   
Mrs H J Blackburn (Town Clerk)

103   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

Councillor A T Inch (South Ward – Work Commitments).

104   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND ANY REQUESTS FOR DISPENSATION ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA

None received.

105   PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION OF 15 MINUTES DURATION

There was no public participation.

106   MINUTES

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 7 January 2016 were approved and signed as a correct record. 
 
(Vote – For: 7,  Against: 0, Abstentions 2)

107   NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN

The Chairman welcomed Mr Martin Parkes from Devon Communities.

Mr Parkes explained that once generated, the Neighbourhood Plan will sit side by side the local authority policies and inform decision making locally.  Mr Parkes gave some examples of what can be covered by a Neighbourhood Plan and the breadth of area they can cover.

He advised that there is an organisation called Locality who administers a grant fund from central government.

The first stage in making a Neighbourhood Plan is to submit a request to the Local Planning Authority to get a designated boundary.  This involves a formal consultation process, but because Bideford is already set up with a Town Council, and has geographical boundaries, this should be a fairly straightforward process.

Neighbourhood Planning is a community led process.  The Town Council would set up a Steering Group, which would include two or three councillors and other members of the community. The Steering Group’s role is to build up the evidence base for the Neighbourhood Plan. The Steering Group consults with the planning authority, generates evidence, looks at statistical data, consults and builds up a vision to go forward.  The scope of what sort of issues to include in a Neighbourhood Plan is very wide.  For example, it can be about preserving heritage, or economic growth, or more affordable housing, backed up by a plan of how to do this.  Once a draft is created, The Steering Group puts this out to consultation for 6 weeks – both to the community and to statutory bodies.  The Neighbourhood Plan will then be submitted to the local planning authority, who then put it forward to an independent body, to check its validity and conformity with current policies and regulations, and to ensure that community engagement has been undertaken. They will make comment on it. After this it goes to referendum within the local community.  Once the Neighbourhood Plan has been accepted, it becomes a legal document and will be referred to alongside the Local Plan, when new planning applications are determined.  It is a fairly long process, with the very quickest time being 18 months, whilst some plans require a number of years.  The cost of making a plan depends on the resource and expertise available within the community, and for a town the size of Bideford can vary between £12,000 and £48,000 approximately.

The Chairman then invited questions (shown in bold – with responses beneath):

What legal standing does adopted plan have?
The decision making still lies with Torridge District Council, but certain sorts of planning could be fast tracked via a Neighbourhood Plan.  The Neighbourhood Plan cannot contradict the Local Plan, but policies can be made that build on top of the Local Plan.  For example, The Neighbourhood Plan can advise how the community would like to spend 106 money.

We have almost been overtaken by events in Bideford. The Local plan is going out very soon – The Town Council voted against the main thrust of the plan – but it went ahead anyway.    We don’t want to raise expectations. 
This is part of the management of the process – not to build expectations - The Local Plan will need to be reviewed in 5 years, so the Town Council could build a body of evidence. The Neighbourhood Plan doesn’t just need to focus on new housing.  There are lots of other issues which could be considered.

How do you select the correct people for the Steering Group.
This would be something for The Town Council to consider. There could be an election process, or member’s time on the Steering Group could be restricted. Individuals can become involved without necessarily being members of the Steering Group.  The Steering Group will need a strong chair and careful management.

The paperwork provided talks about “stealing a plan”, who do we steal it from?  The Locality website has a list of resources and a list of Neighbourhood Plans.

Is it correct that no Neighbourhood Plan which has been challenged has been overturned yet? 
Yes, to date they have all been upheld.

There are concerns that most of the houses planned will already be built before a plan can be generated.  Additionally, infrastructure for new housing is lacking.
In this case, it will not have weight in the immediate future, but once a Neighbourhood Plan is generated, it can be reviewed.
 
What is the cost?
For a town the size of Bideford a ball park figure would be between £12,000 and £48,000 depending on the level of detail, resource available, and speed of generation.

What are the on-costs?  Would the admin team need to grow significantly to accommodate this?
No – A Neighbourhood Plan can lighten the burden once it has been generated.

Members then debated the value of discussing the idea with other Members of the community to ascertain if a Neighbourhood Plan would have a significant impact once delivered.  The Town Council would need to justify spending this amount of money. It was suggested that it may be worth speaking to other local towns that are undergoing the process.  It was suggested that a Neighbourhood Plan could detail the infrastructure requirements.  Members discussed obtaining a completed plan and
Councillor Brenton offered to speak with Kingsteignton, who have completed their plan.

Proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RECOMMENDED:  That   Bideford Town Council pursues the feasibility of generating a Neighbourhood Plan and  that Councillor Brenton will network with parishes who already have a Neighbourhood Plan at the DALC meeting.

(Vote – For: 7, Against: 0, abstentions: 2)

108   CHAIRMAN’S ITEMS

•     The Insurance Company has accepted the quotations provided for the repair of the coach shelter on Landivisiau Walk and the order for the repairs has been placed.
•     The Businesses of Bideford are holding a Mini trade fair on 23 February at the Green Goose between 4pm and 8pm.  Councillors are invited to go along and talk to visitors about the work of the Council.
•     The refurbished Coat of arms has been delivered to the Mayor’s Parlour.  Members need to decide where to hang it.
•     Katy Graham of N. Devon +, will be coming to Full Council on 10 March to talk about Leader 5 funding opportunities.

109  
a.    ACCOUNTS

Members received the list of payments.
   
Proposed by Councillor Inch, seconded and

RESOLVED:  That the draft list of payments is approved.

(Vote – For:  9, Against: 0)

b.    INTERNAL FINANCE INSPECTOR’S REPORT

Members considered the Internal Finance Inspector’s report.

Proposed by Councillor Inch, seconded and

RESOLVED:  That the Internal Finance Inspector’s Report for the period 1 October – 31 December 2015 is accepted.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

(Councillor Christie advised that he had concerns about the funds earmarked for The Bridge Centre as the original £5 million sum on which The Town Council offer had been based had now been reduced to £1.5 million.   Councillor Bushby expressed concerns about the declared land value.)

c.    Members reviewed and approved the Council’s Statement of Internal Control for the Financial year 2015 – 2016.

Proposed by Councillor Bushby, seconded and

RESOLVED:  That the Council’s Statement of Internal Control for the Financial year 2015 – 2016 is approved.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

d.    Members reviewed and approved the Council’s Risk Management Paper for the Financial year 2015 – 2016.

Proposed by Councillor Bushby, seconded and

RESOLVED:  That the Council’s Risk Management Paper for the Financial year 2015 – 2016 is approved.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

110   PUBLIC CONTRACTS REGULATIONS 2015

The financial thresholds in the Public Contracts Directive 2014/24/EU which apply to the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 were amended in November 2015 and take effect from 1 January 2016.

Proposed by Councillor Inch, seconded and 

RESOLVED:  That the financial regulations are amended to observe the requirements of the 2015 Regulations.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

111   MANOR COURT PRESENTMENTS 

Presentment Number 5.

“That a feasibility study be conducted to investigate the cost, location and general desirability of a bandstand in Victoria Park.  To consider adapting the existing Fort and utilise income from 106 agreements to finance the project.”

The Town Clerk advised that the Town Band have been made aware of the dimensions of the fort in Victoria Park, and are going to check if the area would be sufficient to accommodate them if adapted to become a band stand.  They are still awaiting a dry day to test this out.

112   CURRENT PROJECTS

Railings at Victoria Park

The Town Clerk advised that she had been in contact with a local Blacksmith and was working on a nautical design for the railings.  She showed Members the draft design.  She had a quotation from the Blacksmith for the ironwork, but would send the design out to get a comparative cost. The galvanising cost will be in addition to the quotation provided, as this is outsourced. Torridge District Council will get a price for building the small wall upon which the railings will be placed.

(Councillor Wootton left the meeting)

One Bideford

The Town Clerk advised that she had attended the One Bideford Meeting on 29 January along with Councillors A T Inch and Langmead.  The project is progressing to time, with all the operative training now complete. The radios are in hand, One Bideford Badges have been sourced, and a commitment document from all partners has been generated to discuss at the next meeting.  The Town Clerk is working on a web site front page, which will be accessed via a link from The Town Council website.  She has purchased the Domaine name onebideford.org.uk and a twitter account has been set up. She is ordering a banner for the Quay which will give the website address and mobile number for texts and voice messages.  The Town Clerks Office will take the calls for the first month, and set up a logging system, following which time Rachel Raper from IntaGr8 has agreed to take over this function.  Support IT equipment will be purchased from the budget allocated by The Town Council to the project, but will remain the property of BTC. (Members asked that the equipment be marked as the property of Bideford Town Council).  Press releases and a photoshoot are being arranged. 

113    NORTH DEVON RECORDS OFFICE AND LOCAL STUDIES CENTRE

Members considered the request to support a three year funding agreement from Barnstaple Town Council for the North Devon Records Office and Local Studies Centre.

Proposed by Councillor Langmead, seconded and 

RECOMMENDED:  That £4,000 p.a. is granted towards maintaining the North Devon Records Office and Local Studies Centre for a three year period with effect from 1 April 2016.

(Vote For: 7, Against: 0)

(Councillor Christie left the meeting)

114   QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY BEACONS

Councillor S Inch advised that he had been in contact with Polyfield and they still have the Beacon used for the Diamond Jubilee.  They own the beacon and will light it, and are willing to work alongside the Town Council.  Councillor Inch advised that he will have a further meeting with Polyfield, and come back with entertainment suggestions.  It was advocated that the Mayor light the beacon.

115   SFGP COMMITTEE MEETINGS – START TIME.

Proposed by Councillor Pester, seconded and 

RESOLVED:  That future SFGP Meetings begin at 6.30 pm.

(Vote For: 7, Against: 0)

116   SECURITY OF BANK DEPOSITS

Members discussed the risk factor of depositing all the Council funds with one bank.  Councillor Bushby has spoken with a financial consultant, and he could come and speak with Members if they thought this necessary.  Councillor Howell spoke of options for a slightly higher interest rate.  The Town Clerk advised that she had been in touch with Lloyds TSB and could set up a meeting with one of their support team, to discuss options.

Proposed by Councillor Langmead, seconded and

RESOLVED: That The Clerk sets up a meeting with Lloyds TSB, which Councillors Bushby and Howell will also attend.

(Vote – For: 7,  Against: 0)


117   CONFIDENTIAL ITEMS TO BE TAKEN IN PART II

Proposed by Councillor Inch, seconded and

RESOLVED: That in view of the confidential nature of the business about to be discussed, it is advisable, in the public interest, that the public be excluded for the remainder of the meeting.

(Vote – For:  7,  Against: 0)

    PART II (CLOSED SESSION)

118   FORD WOODS

Members considered the fixed price quotations for the arboricultural survey at Ford Woods.
 
Proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RESOLVED: That East Devon Tree Surgeons are engaged to undertake the arboricultural survey in Ford Woods.

(Vote For: 6, Against: 0, Abstentions: 1)


119   Proposed by Councillor Inch, seconded and

RESOLVED: That The Meeting returns to Standing Orders.

(Vote – For:  7,  Against: 0)

The business of the meeting having been completed, the Chairman thanked the members for their attendance and the meeting concluded at 8. 12 pm.

PRESENT:   
North Ward:   
Councillor D Bushby
Councillor P S Christie
Councillor P J Pester (Town Mayor)

South Ward:   
Councillor D G Brenton
Councillor A T Inch
Councillor S G Inch (Chairman)
Councillor R Wootton
       
South (Outer) Ward:   
Councillor D Howell
       
East Ward:
Councillor M Langmead

IN ATTENDANCE:   
Mrs H J Blackburn (Town Clerk)
Councillor  T Johns

086   APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE

All Members were present.

087   DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND ANY REQUESTS FOR DISPENSATION ON ITEMS ON THE AGENDA

None received.

088   PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SESSION OF 15 MINUTES DURATION

There was no public participation.

089   MINUTES

The Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 November 2015 were approved and signed as a correct record.
 
(Vote – For: 9,  Against: 0)

090   ONE BIDEFORD

The Town Clerk advised that she had attended the One Bideford Meeting yesterday along with Councillors A T Inch and Langmead.  The agencies currently involved are moving forward with a co-ordinated Town Team type approach, with a “Go Live date” of 29th February.  The aim is to run the project for a month before the launch date which is likely to be on 3 April 2016 (to coincide with the Beautiful Bideford – Taking Pride in our Town day). Councillors Langmead and A Inch have agreed to be joint Chair of the “One Bideford” Project Meetings and the Town Council is being asked to lead this initiative.  Members need to agree on a level of support that can be provided.
The other agencies are contributing resources as follows: (this is an approximate list)

Police: crime scheme funded Radios, increase to radio coverage, anti-graffiti kits, “One Bideford” badges.
TDC: mobile phone, possibly office accommodation if required.
Fire Service: Some financial resource available.

The initial contact point for the public will be via a mobile phone (text), which will be held in the first instance by the Town Clerk’s Office.  After a month, the nature of the calls will be evaluated, and if it is felt that the phone should be manned by another agency, it will be transferred.

As the lead body, Bideford Town Council will need to provide some admin support to the Chairs of the meeting, and some co-ordination ability.  The Town Council will also need to generate and maintain a web site, and possibly co-ordinate targeted activities. The Town Clerk suggested a budget of £5,000 allocated as follows: Launch £500, website £500, admin/co-ordination £4,000.

Councillors Langmead and A Inch added further information about the radio system and advised that the concept is not to spend money, but to save money.  Both Councillors expressed their admiration for how well the group is working together and becoming involved in cleaning up the town. It was noted that the work of One Ilfracombe is perceived very well within their town.

The Town Centre Partnership is also very supportive of One Bideford.

Members also talked about the launch and the need for not just leaflets, but other ways of advertising the initiative (banners, stickers, press etc.).

Proposed by Councillor Howell, seconded and

RECOMMENDED:  That the contingency sum of £5,000 is put in the budget towards the launch of “One Bideford”, website and administration.  Delegated authority for the spend of the fund (within the allocated budget), is given jointly to Councillors Langmead, A T Inch and the Town Clerk.

(Vote – For:  9, Against: 0)

091   CHAIRMAN’S ITEMS

•     Flowers are being sent to the Macebearer, who has just come out of hospital.
•     The coach shelter on Landivisiau Walk has been vandalised.  This has been reported to the Police and the Insurance Company, and is likely to cost in the region of £1,200 & vat to repair.  Councillor Howell suggested it may be more cost effective to replace the end panel with a solid “Discovering Bideford” sign, and offered to look into the feasibility of this.
•     The Torridge District Council Caretaker who currently covers Bideford Town Council meetings is happy to continue to act as Caretaker for Bideford Town Council after April 2016.  If the BTC Meetings are held at the same time as Torridge Meetings, they will cover the cost.
•     A dummy run to move the furniture out of the Town Hall is being organised for Thursday 28 January – prior to the Town Council meeting.  The time of 17.45 was agreed, and the Town Clerk will arrange for an email to be sent to Councillors advising them of the arrangement and asking them to watch the Manual Handling video if they are able to participate.
•     Members requested that the next SFGP meeting on 11 February 2016 is held at 6.30 pm as it clashes with a Bridge Trust Meeting.  This was agreed by all Members present.  The timing of future meetings will also be placed on the next SFGP agenda.

092   ACCOUNTS

Members received the list of payments.

Concerns were raised about the payment to Torridge District Council for the Christmas parking.  It was generally felt that as it had not been possible to cover the payment machines, some people had paid, even though the parking should have been free.  The Town Clerk was asked if this revenue could be identified and repaid to the Town Council, with a view to it being passed on to a local charity.  Some Councillors also felt that some Members of the Public had been unclear about which authority was paying for the free parking days.
   
Proposed by Councillor Brenton, seconded and

RESOLVED:  That the draft list of payments is approved. The Town Clerk will ask Torridge District Council if the overpayment sum can be identified, with a view to donating this to Charity.

(Vote – For: 9, Against: 0)

The Town Clerk advised that following the payment for the arboricultural work in the woods, there were sufficient funds remaining to engage a tree surgeon to survey the boundary with the neighbouring estate, with a view to identifying any trees which if they fell, would land on property.  The affected trees could then be trimmed, to reduce the threat.  This was agreed, and the Town Clerk will organise some quotations.

093   GIFT FOR MANOR COURT SPEAKER

Proposed by Councillor Langmead, seconded and 

RESOLVED:  That a budget of £150 is set for a gift for the Manor Court Speaker.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

094   MANOR COURT PRESENTMENTS 

Presentment Number 4.

“That the Town Council prepares a list of properties and areas and presents to the Tidy Town committee to pursue and monitor including rubbish and chewing gum.”

A clean up day “Beautiful Bideford – Taking Pride in our Town”, is currently being organised by volunteers from both the Town Council’s Tourism Committee, and other local organisations.  The first day is scheduled for Sunday 3 April 2016.

Presentment Number 5.

“That a feasibility study be conducted to investigate the cost, location and general desirability of a bandstand in Victoria Park.  To consider adapting the existing Fort and utilise income from 106 agreements to finance the project.”

The Town Clerk advised that the Town Band have been made aware of the dimensions of the fort in Victoria Park, and are going to check if the area would be sufficient to accommodate them if adapted to become a band stand.

095   SECURITY OF BANK DEPOSITS

The Clerk advised that she had contacted NALC for advice on how to mitigate the risk of holding all funds with one financial institution, and had circulated the response prior to the meeting.  She has also asked Mr Norton at Torridge District Council, who has advised that their funds are held with different institutions to spread the risk. Members agreed that the sum of £200,000 could be moved to another financial institution, and Councillors Howell and Bushby both said that they had contacts, who could advise on safe propositions.

Proposed by Councillor S Inch, seconded and

RESOLVED: That Councillors Bushby and Howell will obtain more information on investment possibilities for The Town Council funds, and will report back to the next meeting.

(Vote – For: 9,  Against: 0)

096     COMMONWEALTH FLAG

Members gave consideration to the procedure for raising the Commonwealth flag on Monday 14 March 2016.

Proposed by Councillor Christie, seconded and 

RECOMMENDED:  That on Monday 14th March The Commonwealth flag is raised at the Town Hall, with the Mayor and Councillors attending the flag raising at Riverbank House.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

097                                                                                                        QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY BEACONS

Members gave consideration to correspondence from Bruno Peek, Pageant Master, regarding The Queen’s Birthday Beacons – 21 April 2016.  Members discussed the whereabouts of the Beacon used during the Diamond Jubilee, and Councillor Howell offered to check with Pollyfield if they still had it.  Councillor S Inch suggested that The Town Council should become involved in lighting a Beacon and offered to lead this initiative.

Proposed by Councillor Pester, seconded and 

RECOMMENDED:  That the Town Council supports lighting the beacon under the leadership of Councillor S Inch.  The Town Clerk will advise the Pageant Master that a Beacon will be lit in Bideford.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

098    FINANCIAL REGULATIONS

Members gave consideration to the Financial Regulations as required by clause 49 and the suggestion from the External Auditor.

Proposed by Councillor S Inch, seconded and 

RESOLVED: 

That the Financial Regulations are amended to fully differentiate between the current auditor roles.  The terminology used will be as follows: Internal Auditor (currently Councillor Bushby), Independent Auditor (currently Mrs M Wilkin) and External Auditor (Currently Grant Thornton).

That The following clause is added to the Financial Regulations:

On a regular basis, at least once in each quarter, and at each financial year end, The Internal Auditor (who is not the Chairman or a cheque signatory) shall be appointed to verify bank reconciliations (for all accounts) produced by the RFO. The Internal Auditor shall sign the reconciliations and the original bank statements as evidence of verification. This activity shall on conclusion be reported, including any exceptions, to and noted by the Finance Committee.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

099   NOTICE OF MOTION: Councillor T Johns/S Inch

“To enhance the existing area at Victoria Park where the Old Public toilets stood, by erecting iron railings and a concrete wall to match existing enclosure of Victoria Park.”

Councillor Trevor Johns spoke on the background to the motion, which was supported by Councillor S Inch.

The Town Clerk advised that John Adams, TDC had obtained two quotes for the work, which were circulated to Members. More had been requested, but had not been forthcoming.  £3,870 TAP money is still available, and anything left over from the provision of cycle hoops can be put towards this project, as it will enhance the visibility of the proposed storage area for the cycles.

The Town Clerk has spoken with John Adams about whether it would be more efficient to install the cycle hoops at the same time as the wall enhancement, and he feels this would be the case. 

Councillor Christie expressed support for the project, but wondered whether the current railings could be replaced with ironwork which is more in keeping with the ornate gates, and which reflects our maritime history.  He suggested there may be FLAG money available for this.

Whilst there was general support for the original motion, Members wished to explore the enhanced ironwork proposal further.  The possibility of removing the bushes which are currently the other side of the fencing was also suggested in order to open up the view into the park.

An amendment to the motion was proposed by Councillor S Inch, seconded and

RECOMMENDED:  That the original motion is supported, but that the possibility of replacing the current railings with ironwork which is more in keeping with the ornate gates, and which reflects our maritime history is investigated.

(Vote For: 9, Against: 0)

(It was agreed that The Town Clerk and Councillors S Inch, Christie and Johns would make a site visit and carry out some investigation into enhanced ironwork for the project).

100   BUDGET 2016/2017

The Town Clerk presented the draft Budget Estimates for the Financial Year 2016/2017.

Members generally felt that the precept would need to be increased this year to make up for the reduction in Council Tax support grant provided by The District Council, followed by its complete withdrawal next Year.  Members also suggested that with continuing County Council and District Council cuts, more and more will be expected from the Town Council in future years.  It was advocated that any increase should be coupled with a full explanation to the public of why this is necessary.
Members asked The Town Clerk to amend the “Option C” budget to include £6,000 for grass cutting, which would be taken from the “Projects” Budget Line.

Following discussion a final draft budget was agreed which is attached and forms part of these Minutes.

Proposed by Councillor Howell, seconded and

RECOMMENDED:  That the Council approves the budget of £ 399,101.00 in respect of the Financial Year commencing 1 April 2016 and that the Council’s reserves remain at £130,000.00.

(This will be a Band D increase of approximately 3.94 % or 56p/week).

(Vote For: 8, Against: 1)

101   CONFIDENTIAL ITEMS TO BE TAKEN IN PART II

Proposed by Councillor Pester, seconded and

RESOLVED: That in view of the confidential nature of the business about to be discussed, it is advisable, in the public interest, that the public be excluded for the remainder of the meeting.

(Vote – For:  9, Against: 0)

    PART II (CLOSED SESSION)

102   EMPLOYMENT ISSUES

There is a confidential minute associated with this agenda item. 


The business of the meeting having been completed, the Chairman thanked the members for their attendance and the meeting concluded at 19.37  pm.

 

 

 


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